Volunteers needed to plant trees along Clarks Run

April 12, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The stoneflies and mayflies know. So do caddisflies.

Clarks Run stream is in fair condition, one step up from poor. Pollutants like lawn fertilizer, cow manure and soap from home car washes have damaged the stream. Thickets have replaced the stands of trees that would have bordered the Clarks Run naturally, soaked up pollutants and filtered rainwater before it reached the water.

How has that affected the water quality?

Check with the flies.

The insects are environmental indicators, meaning the more flies, called macroinvertebrates, the better the water. There aren't that many, according to Rose-Marie Roessler, a master's student at Eastern Kentucky University. She is writing her thesis, in part, about the fly populations in Clarks Run.

What can be done about it? Roessler said that every study she has read reports the same thing: Plant trees.

That's exactly what Danville plans to do April 24; plant 2,800 native trees.


Volunteers are needed to work two-hour shifts from 10 a.m. -4 p.m. They will be taught how to properly plant, and then be given a bucket full of seedlings.

"Make it a family affair," said Malissa McAllister, who works with local watersheds in the Kentucky River Basin.

There will be free food, hats and seedlings for those who help. After planting, volunteers can peruse booths to learn about native trees, local water testing and the city's stormwater plan.

Bluegrass PRIDE, local businesses paying for planting

The planting is being paid for by a Bluegrass PRIDE grant and donations from local businesses.

Clarks Run is home to more than macroinvertebrates. Crayfish, raccoons, minnows and bluegill depend on the stream as part of their habitat.

About 87 percent of the water is surrounded by farmland. The waste from cows and other farm animals pollutes the stream that was Danville's original drinking water source. It flows into the Dix River and into Herrington Lake, from which the city now pulls its drinking water.

Clarks Run starts in Alum Springs and runs through the heart of Danville. Inside the city limits, urban pollutants run amuck. McAllister said that every resident can stop contributing to its pollution:

* Use fertilizers sparingly.

* Sweep the driveway, sidewalks and roads instead of using a hose.

* Pick up pet waste in the yard.

* Recycle motor oil and antifreeze when fluids are changed.

* Use car wash facilities.

* Inspect and pump septic systems every three to five years.

* Don't dump into the storm sewer.

* Stop sump pumps from dumping into the storm sewer.

Dirt, chemicals and soap run downhill, directly into Clarks Run or into storm sewers that dump there or into or Spears Creek.

There is a plan, paid for by the previous Danville City Commission, to pave a trail along the entire length of Clarks Run. So far one mile of trail has been paved, and that is where the trees will be planted.

Nonprofit organization would keep stream clean

McAllister and other event organizers hope to form a nonprofit organization that will work to keep the stream clean, and to get the trails built. They hope eventually the stream will be a place like McConnell Springs in Lexington.

Clarks Run was once lined with native trees like tulip, dogwood, maple and ash. The tree roots soak up pollutants and excess nutrients, like fertilizer, that can impair the stream, and filter water before it enters the creek. Tree branches block sunlight that promotes the growth of algae.

Excess sunshine and fertilizers promote the growth of particulate organic matter and algae that suck the oxygen the flies and aquatic animals need to live.

The bigger and thicker the buffer along the stream, the better, Roessler said.

As the water quality improves, so will the fly and other aquatic animal populations, such as green sunfish, studfish, darters and snakes. In turn, the animals that live around the stream, like foxes and rabbits, will thrive.

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